By Sufi Sadati
Whether the result of an unexpected blown out tire or the product of adolescent recklessness gone wrong, Harrison Mahler Compton in a preliminary hearing today faced charges of a hit and run of victim Nadine Anderson on November 7, 2018.
Mr. Compton, 19, was dressed in a sharp suit and seated to the left of Deputy Public Defender Emily Fisher, as Deputy District Attorney Alex Kian called out the names of approximately 10 witnesses to be called before the court. The first was Nicole Sinou.
Ms. Sinou recalled riding her bike around 3:30-4:00 pm, about to turn onto 8th Street in Davis, in a residential area. She witnessed a silver or off-white BMW, skidding and screeching about 50 yards behind her, as they were turning onto the street. The vehicle passed her, but they met at a red light where the witness had a chance to get a look at the driver, whom she described as a “white, young, male.” The green light prompted the driver to accelerate as he made the left hand turn in the intersection, “drifting out of control…and fishtailed,” driving onto the sidewalk and hitting a pedestrian, Nadine Anderson.
“I saw her go flying ,” the witness noted, confirming she was hit by Mr. Compton’s car. By the time the witness looked up to see where the BMW went, she saw it “far down the street.”
The victim appeared not to be moving, while she lay on grass after being hit by the car. Ms. Sinou proceeded to call 911.
Additionally, she added she heard the sound of a loud bang. After inspecting the scene she saw noticed a dented electrical box and assumed the driver had hit it.
Cross-examination by Ms. Fisher asked the witness to estimate how far the electrical box was from the victim, and she answered approximated 10 feet. She noted the box was damaged, dented, and very wide.
Christopher Canes Mussen, who was driving toward the left turn signal, recounted hearing a screeching tire and seeing a vehicle that he described as going “faster than I’ve ever seen a car do that from a stationary (position).” He watched as the car popped up onto the sidewalk, hitting the victim from the side, and projecting her “airborne.” Mr. Mussen asserted that Ms. Anderson was struck first, and then the electrical box afterwards.
When asked how hard the driver hit Ms. Anderson, the witness estimated the car hit her at the same rate of speed it was traveling. He was “expecting the worst.”
Mr. Kian called his next witness, Veneese Brown.
Ms. Brown was riding her bike on 8th Street the day of the accident and reaffirmed both the screeching sound of the BMW’s tire and the loud bang of the electrical box. However, Ms. Brown was the only witness thus far who actually saw the car hit the box. In fact, she did not notice the victim lying on the ground until the victim propped her head up – as she was originally lying face down. The witness stated the car “stopped for a few seconds then went down B Street,” though she believed it was the driver trying to regain control of the car as it was going relatively fast.
Ms. Fisher pointed out the witness never directly saw the victim hit, until she saw someone roll over and put two and two together.
The witness did add that Ms. Anderson had “a really big bump on her head.”
A detailed and different perspective on the ordeal came from Mr. Kian’s next witness, John Watson.The witness was crossing the street on 7th, streets Mr. Watson mentioned he knew very well after having lived in the area for over 30 years. He communicated seeing a silver car pass the center line, veer, correct, cure, and drive back onto B Street. He described the car as making a “complete 360 and out of control,” conclusively hitting the electrical box. The car then made its way down 9th Street and turned right onto D Street.
Taking the liberty of following the car, he noticed it pulled into an apartment complex on 9th Street with two people exiting the vehicle.
Watson then approached the two males, angrily inquiring, “What was that?” Mr. Compton responded, “I blew out my tire, sir.” Not knowing anyone injured was involved, Watson left the scene to walk back to the 9th Street apartment, after hearing sirens coming from the scene of the accident. He was shocked to see in a span of five minutes the car was gone.
In the midst of showing an officer where he had seen the car, he heard the officer’s radio say, “The suspect’s mother says he wants to turn himself in.”
A witness of particular interest was Dyan Claybough, a high school senior and Mr. Compton’s best friend, who had been picked up by the defendant that day.
Mr. Kian blatantly questioned, “Would you lie for your best friend?”
“No, it’s better to tell the truth and be out right.”
Mr. Claybough began his testimony recalling hearing a loud noise from his apartment. Shortly after, Mr. Compton pulled up to the witness’ apartment complex, his car damaged on the passenger side: “Metal scraped, different colors were on the car that wasn’t its original paint, and it was dented. It was driving, but looked like it shouldn’t have been. There was damage to the front and a flat tire.” His best friend stood there speechless.
All the witness remembers the defendant saying was soft mutters, “ I f**ked up.”
The defendant then asked the witness if he would go to his mother’s house with him. As Mr. Claybough locked up his apartment, he saw the defendant approached by a resident in the complex. At this point, he knew nothing of the alleged events that had preceded the visit.
Upon arriving at the defendant’s mother’s house, Mr. Compton asked Mr. Claybough to help cover his car with a car cover he had in his car. Everything but the tires were shielded.
It was not until the defendant, his mother and Mr. Claybough were all in the mother’s room where both the witness and the defendant’s mother heard an account of what had just occurred. Mr. Compton’s mother asked her son if he had hit someone, and he replied he did not know. However, she advised him that “there’s always a chance” and Compton concluded that “there might be a possibility.”
In Mr. Claybough’s words of how his friend described the events, he testified this was the story told: Compton was going down 8th Street, and in an attempt to make a left turn his tire blew out, resulting in his losing control of the car and hitting an electrical box.
His mother then suggested he call it in and retreat back to the scene. They met with Officer Evans.
The deputy public defender cross-examined the witness about any prior knowledge of the relationship the defendant had with his BMW. He confirmed he was aware of the special place this particular car had with Mr. Compton, as he had worked on building the entire car with his father.
Ms. Fisher inquired if he was aware of his best friend’s fear of his father’s disappointment when he found out he crashed the car. She also established the “more than average closeness” the defendant and his mother shared. The witness was committed to all of these statements.
Claybough also noted he was in fact expecting Mr. Compton around that time to accompany him to the mother’s house, so it was by no means a coincidence when he appeared.
Throughout the chaos of the day, Mr. Compton never once said he hit someone, yet he did admit to hitting the electrical box.
Brought up to the witness stand next was, Sierra Sparre, the resident who had spoken with Mr. Compton at the apartment complex.
At the time she did not know her roommate was the one who was allegedly hit by the defendant’s car.
She had seen a girl on the ground on B Street that day, and by her a wrecked electrical box, but thought it was being handled. Pulling into her complex, she saw a familiar car parked unusually. Upon examining the car she saw “a broken light, and damage to the whole right side…and a flat right tire.” Stopping the only guy next to the car, she approached him.
In one continuous quasi question/statement: “Was that you? You need to go back, there’s a girl on the ground.” Mr. Compton responded, “Oh yeah, yeah,” as his eyes appeared to widen.
Ms. Sparre drove back to the scene only to find out it was her roommate who was struck.
In the cross-examination, Ms. Fisher wanted to clarify what the witness believed the defendant was responding to when he said, “Oh yeah, yeah.” Ms. Sparre was under the impression they were thinking the same thing, although he was obviously “freaked out.”
After a 20-minute recess, Officer Tony Dias and Officer Leo Gonzales were questioned relatively briefly. The former, a Davis peace officer of eight years, the latter pushing almost three years. Dias testified to finding the BMW with the car cover surrounding the damage, namely a missing side view mirror.
Officer Gonzales actually took pictures of the incident. Photos one through five showed pieces of the car scattered, as well as the sixth picture of Ms. Anderson’s large bump.
He claimed Compton gave a similar statement to the one he gave his mother.
The width and length of the electrical box was equated to roughly 5 ½ feet wide and 4 feet tall. Ms. Fisher spotlighted that the box was completely on its side and managed to have Officer Gonzales testify that it was “very heavy.”
She also underlined how the defendant knowingly and voluntarily professed, “I am the one involved in this accident.”
According to Officer Gonzales, the defendant’s head was hanging low, and he looked upset when he found out someone was injured. He never once admitted he knew of hitting someone.
The same officer found he was not under the influence at the time, and mentioned Compton was particularly upset because he thought damaging an electrical box would bar him from entering law enforcement or the military, his passion.
In the entirety of the conversation, Mr. Compton never once admitted to having any knowledge of hitting the victim.
Lastly, in a rather cheeky way, Ms. Fisher asked the officer if he was the one who said “a 19 year old shouldn’t need his mom for something like this.” He could not recall.
The final witness testimony came from the victim herself, Nadine Anderson.
The deputy district attorney asked her to relive her trauma. A student at the University of California, Davis, majoring in Latin, she described walking on B Street’s sidewalk. Looking down, she heard the sound of screeching tires, then after a matter of seconds a car came toward her, projecting her onto the nearby grass. She also heard the crash of what was presumed to be the electrical box.
Hit on the inside of her left leg, she was bruised from the knee down to her shin. She has no clear recollection of the events after she was hit.
“My state of mind greatly changed after being hit,” she continued. Mr. Kian asked the victim to list both the short and long term effects of the accident.
Short term, she claims she was unable to walk for a few days, barely walking months after, and she suffered a contusion resulting in a bump that lasted around two months. Long term, she was “absolutely affected.” Ms. Anderson mentioned her difficulty in writing essays, her newfound struggle articulating her thoughts, retaining information and finding appropriate words.
Ms. Anderson believes she is receiving much lower marks than she deserves, even though she is studying twice as hard.
The defense took an aggressive position to the victim’s statements. Firstly, Ms. Fisher probed how she ended up on the grass from the sidewalk, when she herself acknowledges she does not know. Secondly, Fisher pressed on the validity of the victim’s statement of being immobile for a few days, when she had previously stated it was only two days. A month later she had asserted she had no issues with the leg. Thirdly, there were no records of broken bones or loss of consciousness. Finally, Ms. Anderson had formerly stated she was the only one on the sidewalk that day, however, on this day she insists she never took notice if she was or not.
Mr. Kian wrapped up the day by prying other long term effects from the victim, such as lower back pain issues which have made her see a chiropractor.
The last witness, Officer Evans, will be heard tomorrow at 1:30pm.